Stories & Voices
A Sweet Path to Self-Sufficiency
June 16th, 2017
UJA Federation of New York >> Employees at Greyston Bakery, with some of the 35,000 brownies the bakery produces each day.
Employees at Greyston Bakery, with some of the 35,000 brownies the bakery produces each day.

Everyone deserves a second chance.

At least that’s the philosophy at Greyston Bakery, a double bottom line business that does much more than sell delectable baked goods. Through an innovative new collaboration with UJA-Federation’s nonprofit partner, Westchester Jewish Community Services, Greyston is actively changing lives in the Yonkers community.

For the last 25 years, Greyston has used the practice of open hiring, offering employment opportunities regardless of work history or prior setbacks such as incarceration, homelessness, drug use, or lack of education. The open hiring model is guided by the belief that no one is unemployable; in fact, employment is the first step on a person’s path toward self-sufficiency.

That’s been true for Gena and Eddie, life partners for more than 10 years,  who were formerly homeless.

“Coming to Greyston helped with my self-esteem and got me back on track,” says Gena.

Eddie adds, “I like the people, we have a lot of camaraderie, and we can depend on each other. It made me more stable.”

Employment at Greyston begins with a 10-month apprenticeship and training period — no easy feat, considering that 60% of the people who start the program do not finish. Employees must prove that they are reliable, responsible, and committed; however, they are not expected to succeed on their own.

Greyston offers its 70 employees access to a variety of programs, including workforce development, low-income housing, childcare, after-school programs, and community gardens.

Greyston and Westchester Jewish Community Services have a long history of serving the Westchester community – and now, with the help of UJA, the two organizations are maximizing their impact.

Through a grant from UJA, WJCS is able to employ an on-site senior case manager. One of the goals is to reduce the number of apprentices who don’t complete the program by linking them and their families to specialized services. This includes parenting classes, mental health screening and treatment, trauma support, and early childhood, youth, and family programming.

When Gena and Eddie needed a home, WJCS case manager Elena Paulino stepped in. She helped them secure housing so they could complete their apprenticeship.

Elena notes, “Because of the support Gena and Eddie received during their time of transition, they were able to continue to work at the bakery. It’s likely, under other circumstances, they would have missed significant work and would have been terminated.”

The best part about the Greyston model? It works.

The business crafts 35,000 pounds of brownies a day, and works closely with major brands like Whole Foods and Ben & Jerry’s (Greyston’s fudge brownies, already a key ingredient in several Ben & Jerry’s flavors, will also be featured in their newest offering, Empower Mint).

Doing good in our community has never been more delicious.